Buck, Peter (Te Rangi Hiroa). 1950. Material culture of Kapingamarangi. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 200. Honolulu: Bernice Bishop Museum Press.(P.175-180)
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We were fortunate in being invited to witness the preliminary shaping of a canoe hull on the island of Ringutoru. The canoe was to be built for a young man, whose family attended in a body to supply and prepare food for the working party. The labor was purely voluntary, and workers came from both Touhor and Werua.
When we landed on the beach at Ringutoru, three pigs were being singed with dry coconut leaves and cleaned and washed in the lagoon. The smoke of fires rose where women near the cooking house were busy preparing the food, some for a midday snack, but the pork and special preparations were for the main meal or feast when the day's work was over. The sound of chopping led us to the site of operations in the interior.
A large breadfruit tree, paced at about 90 feet long, had been felled, and the party of workers armed with steel axes was gathered along its length. The log for the hull, which was partly severed, was 23 feet 4 inches long. This was to provide a canoe 3.5 roho (arm spans), roughly about 21 feet, long. The pastor of Werua was busy severing and trimming the butt end of the log, and Ti Tongorongo was engaged in completing the severance of the far end. Ti Rongorongo as the expert director of operations (taki ti mo me) wore a pandanus mat strapped around his waist, evidently to distinguish him from the other workers. ( See figure 4.) Our informant explained that while there were many expert canoe builders on the job, they remained silent as regards what was to be done and took their directions from Ti Rongorongo, who had been chosen for the particular task of rough shaping the hull. Hakaripi, equally if not more expert, had been selected for finishing the hull and adding the outrigger parts when it was taken to Werua for completion of the canoe. Thus Halaripi was present in a subsidiary position and took orders from Ti Rongorongo. Later Ti Rongorongo would serve as cheerfully unger Hakaripi.
The organized attack on the log was on the upper part to shape out the lateral slopes to the keel (iwi), which would be uppermost in the first stage of the work. Six men with steel axes mounted the log and proceeded to cut scarfs, or notches, about 7 inches apart on one side of the upper slope of the log. This process is termed tutanga (tu, to cut; tanga, piece or section); and the sections between the vertical cuts are also termed tutanga (fig. 106,a). When the cuts were deep enough, other workers proceeded to chop out (tiha) the tutanga pieces. This action is referred to as tiha nia tutanga. The other side of the log was treated similarly, and the upper part of it was converted into two sloping planes converging toward the apex which was to form the keel. As the first set of tutanga had not removed enough wood from each side, a second series, of shallower grooves, was cut and the sections chopped out with lateral blows of the axes. In the deeper process, the axes cut through the lighter-colored sapwood (kono te) into the red heartwood (me me). The part of the trimmed log formed by the deeper cuts is termed pa and the sections of wood cut out are distinguished from the first set by the term tutanga pa.
Only about six men at a time could work on the trimming down of the pa, even fewer when the sections were cut out. The men usually stood on top of the log and swung their axes sideways in cutting out the sections between the notches, at the same time smooothing out any knobs. They often overswung when the axes glanced off the surface, hence they took care not to stand too close to their neighbors. At first I feared that accidents would occur through occasional wild swings, but the workers never let go their axes and their judgment of spacing was sound. As there were 16 men on the job, they could not all work at once, so those not engaged sat about gossiping and smoking cigarettes. Every now and then, one of them rose to his feet and relieved a worker on the log without any orders from the expert in command. Thus, no worker became exhausted and the work went forward easily at the best possible speed. Probably an American overseer would have wanted to strike some of the men off the payroll, but the payroll and its attendant demands have not yet reached Kapingamarangi.
Ti Rongorongo gave an occasional glance along the sides to see if they were even and symmetrical and issued a word of advice as to the removal of more wood. The pa having been completed to his satisfaction, he called up all his forces to turn (huri) the log (fig. 106, b). The 16 men of the working party, or all who could get a handhold on the log, lined up on one side and joined in an oldtime turning chorus of which the words are: Koia ra ka ha-ep. On the concluding ejaculation ep, all pushed together and held the ground gained while they drew breath for a repetition of the chorus. It took three eps to turn the log over into the required position on its keel, and there it was chocked with pieces of timber. I tried the chant out, but purposely ended on the word "up." I was immediately corrected and told that ep was the right word, so it is probably a local invention and not a corruption of up.
After notches had been cut to form tutanga along the top of the log and then were cut away and the level lowered, the upper, gunwale part of the hull began to appear. The upper sides were also trimmed down in the same way to form planes which met the upward sloping planes from the keel at an obtuse angle, for the canoe was to be of the Nukuoro type with a tumble-home hull. In a Kapingamarangi hull, this extra trimming would have been omitted. At the same time, men were narrowing the ends to form the bow and the stern, with the bow, as always, at the butt end of the log. Two branches at the stern end were removed and the parts trimmed to the lines of the hull.
When the upper horizontal plane was made fairly level by means of axes, Ti Rongorongo suddenly mounted the deck with a steel adz blade lashed to a short handle with a coir cord, and started to smooth off the middle part of the surface. As if this were a signal, five men armed with similar adzes mounted the log, spread along its length, and proceeded with exact short strokes to level the sections each occupied. The process of trimming with adzes is termed hara.
The sides were also evened along the upper edges, at which stage, Ti Rongorongo vacated the deck and took up a position at the stern end of the log. Glancing along the lines of the hull, he issued a few words of insstruction to various workers to take off a little (turi) here or some there. The person addressed by name laid his adz against the spot and asked "hinei" (here)? Upon receiving the answer "uwe" (yes) he quickly removed the surplus part which had caught the eye of the expert director.
The next process was termed hakatere tara waka which means marking out the side lines or boundaries for excavating the hold. Though not a measuring rule or a pencil had been laid on the log to this point, one would have expected the marking out of exact lines to demand the personal attention of the expert in charge and to be marked out in charcoal as a guide to those who would hollow out the interior. The guiding lines were made, but in a totally unexpected manner. Two workers, one on each side of the hull, commenced at the stern end and proceeded to mark out the lines for the inner sides of the gunwale on the side opposite to themselves with short, sure blows of their adzes. They worked down the whole length of the hull and the lines were cut on each side of the upper surface without any hesitation. Ti Tongorongo looked on without a word and his apparent confidence in the results was fully justified. To me, it was a remarkable example of perfect coordination of eye and hand.
The lines were no sooner marked out than three men with the axes termed hakatere ki toki ti roto. After the defined area had been chopped out to a shallow depth, other men carried on the hollowing -out process (hoto) with steel gouges lashed to short handles like those of the adzes. Some shell adzes made of thicker than average shell and with curved, convex cutting edges were readily recognized by the older men as the type used for hollowing out the hold, hence termed toki hoto waka. ( See figures, 102, 103, c.) After the hold was deepend a few more inches, the work was suspended, for it was late afteroon. The hull was covered with coconut leaves and left to season for a month or so before removal to Werua for completion of the canoe under the direction of Hakarpi.